McCain duo to thwart Crawford's raiders
Of the four Irish runners at Sedgefield tomorrow, Stuart Crawford's Izzini is the one with the obvious win credentials in the bumper. On her only previous outing, the mare ran away with a similar race at the Durham venue on good ground in October.
In the meantime, that form has been shown up badly with the third, fourth and fifth beaten an aggregate 230 lengths on their next starts.
There are doubts about Izzini's ability to carry a penalty now, and the two other winners on duty are iffy.
It may pay to keep Don McCain's Moss Cloud on-side instead. McCain saddled the runner-up to Izzini in October, so he'll have a decent line on the extent of her ability.
A son of Cloudings, Moss Cloud joined the Cheshire handler after winning an Aghabullogue point-to-point in style for Paul Moloney in January, having been pulled up on its only previous outing. He clearly has potential, and there is a suspicion this is a race that otherwise lacks depth.
Crawford's Solidago also has a chance in the opening novices' hurdle, but it is yet another McCain-trained point-winning son of Cloudings that appeals in this. Cloud Creeper, placed in two of its three hurdle starts since relocating to Cheshire, is the one to beat now that it steps up to two and a half miles on a bit of decent ground.
Outsider to note
Dick Lalor sends two to Sedgefield tomorrow for a pair of three-mile-three-furlong heats, and Clonbeale Vacation appeals as an each-way option in the handicap chase.
Successful in five point-to-points, Lalor's mare has struggled in three starts in bad ground this winter.
However, with the trainer's talented daughter Liz up and decent ground assured, she might go close.
Leopardstown 2.10 – Thunder And Roses
Sedgefield 2.20 – Cloud Creeper
Sedgefield 3.50 – Clonbeale Vacation
Sedgefield 4.20 – Moss Cloud
Quote of the week
"Bryan Cooper is a grand fella but if he thinks he's riding First Lieutenant in the Ryanair Chase, he can f**k right off!"
– Davy Russell, in typically entertaining form at a Cheltenham Festival preview in Waterford on Thursday night, pours cold water on the notion that Cooper might get to keep the ride on Mouse Morris' chaser if he swerves the Gold Cup in favour of the Ryanair Chase.
15 The cost of entry in euro to a Cheltenham preview in aid of the National Rehabilitation Hospital at 7.45 in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel, Newland's Cross tomorrow night. The panel includes Barry Geraghty, Jessica Harrington, Robbie Power, Tony Mullins, Niall Quinn and the in-demand Davy Russell.
Three things we
learned this week
1 The British handicappers have given Irish horses a chance at Cheltenham. After the raiders' record 13-winner haul in 2011, it was no surprise our handicap entrants looked harshly treated when the weights were unveiled for last year's Festival.
Sure enough, we plundered just one of the 11 handicaps in March 2012. This time, though, the absence of dissenting voices was notable as the assessors, led by Phil Smith, appeared to cut the entire team some slack. Put it this way, in spread betting parlance, last year's tally would be a monumental buy.
2 Mount Benbulben might be getting his act together over fences. While Gordon Elliott's charge had looked anything but proficient, Danny Mullins got a fine tune out of him at Thurles on Thursday to secure his first win since being appointed Barry Connell's retained rider. Both horse and rider will face more challenging tests in the weeks ahead, but they certainly passed this one with flying colours.
3 Johnny Murtagh's split from the Aga Khan was every bit as straightforward as it looked. In an interview with Ella McSweeney, Murtagh admitted he was informed his position had become untenable almost straight after the infamous race on the Curragh last August. He humbly confirmed he had been naive, but he had been anxious to showcase the extent of what he might be capable of as a trainer.
Monday: Ffos Las, Kempton (AW), Southwell
Tuesday: Exeter, Newcastle, Southwell (AW)
Wednesday: Downpatrick, Catterick, Fontwell, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW)
Thursday: Clonmel, Carlisle, Southwell (AW), Wincanton, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Ayr, Leicester, Sandown, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Saturday: Gowran Park, Ayr, Chepstow, Sandown, Wolverhampton (AW)
Sunday: Naas, Market Rasen, Warwick
* denotes evening meeting